With festival season making a comeback, we’re highlighting a group of artists creating their own distinct path in the music industry.
Meet TRACE, an L.A.-based Vietnamese-American musician making emotionally rich, delicate, and dreamy alt-pop songs that are as relatable as they are infectious. We caught up with her to chat about her musical evolution, who inspires her, and what she has coming up.
Born and raised in Orange County, TRACE didn’t grow up having musical ambitions of her own - despite the fact that her mom, Carol Kim, is a renowned Vietnamese singer. Instead, she went to college for business and communications and got a job in L.A. as the Managing Editor for a magazine. It was there she realized her passion for music and her desire to pursue it as a career. “I never performed really growing up but I was always a writer with decent guitar skills. It was always a hobby until it wasn’t,” says TRACE.
Her newest release, “Cry Baby,” is an emotionally driven EP that gives the listener permission to feel, to release, to let the music meet them exactly where they are. Each song juxtaposes TRACE’s soft voice and vulnerable lyrics with experimental electronics so easy to move to you almost forget how raw she’s being.
How has your music evolved over the years?
I think perhaps sonically I’ve evolved in that, throughout the years, my confidence has grown so I’ve been able to experiment with different sounds and not feel I had to stay in a pocket/genre. Fortunately genres feel more and more expansive. In terms of the things I'm writing, I feel more careful in ways because I know there is an audience listening. But overall, I’m grateful to be able to look back and feel a cohesion of honesty with my words. But I think the goal is learning to be more and more yourself and whatever that produces is the evolution itself. Going from one understanding and emotion to the other.
What aspect of your life most impacts how you write or make music?
I would say every aspect. But of course it’s the relationships in my life that fuel how and what I write. I do my best to take note of everyday experiences and every single emotion I come across. Writing and making music often makes me feel lighter because there is the intention to connect every part of myself to my work so I can release it. Relay it. Realize it.
What artists have been your biggest inspiration?
I’m inspired by so many people! Frank Ocean, Feist, James Blake, The National. But also like Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen.
What are you most excited about? Any upcoming projects/shows/tours?
Working on my first full-length album and diving into the NFT world! I always want to play more shows. I hope to get to tour, it’s all very unknown in le music climate right now.
Describe your personal style.
I would say a mixture of tomboy and feminine. I enjoy playing with combinations that complement each other like a men’s oversized blazer with a silk midi skirt. The baggier and drapier the better. Minimalist with neutrals but mostly black. Quality over quantity.